Taipei Day 1: Tea and Friends

My first official 24 consecutive hours in Taiwan. I feel like Ive been here a week.

I left DC on a Thursday afternoon and my first day here is Saturday? Long trip. But Im rested and ready to roll. Today is the birthday of one of our hosts: Josephine Pan. Our plan to spend the day at a hot spring fell through so we will shop and walk around. We had other tea friends join us for the day: Lisa Bolt-Richardson, Lynayn Mielke, Karen Hartwick, and Bob Bowie.

Our first stop was walking through the old market. We wandered through taking in all the aromas that crashed together. We stopped to watch a man make what I called “taiwanese crepes”. These are made of rice flour which perked me up since Im a gluten-free girl now. It was fun to watch him spin the dough and flatten it out on the hot round pans. We didnt eat any – just watched. The best part of the market was when I spotted the fruit Ive waited a year to eat again: PASSION FRUIT. Last year the hotel had it every day for breakfast. This time it didnt, so I was on a quest to find some. I bought out the ENTIRE amount of fruit the farmer had. For $3.00. Though I was reluctant to share with my peeps, I finally gave in. But it wasnt easy.

After the market we went over to a Taoist Temple. People were milling around, praying, offering fruit to the different Gods and asking questions with what looked like a half moon piece of wood, painted a bright red. The idea is to ask a question to the God of Business and drop the wooden pair. It needs to fall with one upright and one down, three times in a row and that means the answer is yes. I had to try it. I asked my question and I didnt expect the answer I got.  It was an astounding YES. Im keeping the question a secret for now. I enjoy visiting these kinds of temples in Asia. There is just nice  and peaceful atmosphere to it. No one is speaking. Incense are burning and there is a lot of fruit being offered.

Lisa, Lynayn, Josephine, Bob, Karen

After all that shopping and praying, or watching people pray we headed out for lunch. Josephine picked a cute local place were I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the vegetable dumplings were made with rice flour. Happiness. Pure happiness. I ordered them and an interesting soup. No tea was served though. Odd.

After our feast, we continued to walk and shop and taste local street food and just enjoy each others company. In some cases we were making new friends, in others, we were catching up with old friends. Ive known Josephine now for a few years and I was on the TOST 2009 trip last year. Ive known Lynayn and Lisa for a few years now through out training at STI, and Lynayn happens to live in Annapolis which is a short distance from DC. I made 2 new friends that day: Bob from Kansas, who own The Spice Merchant and Karen from Canada who owns Stratford Tea Leaves.

Sushi dinner on the sidewalk

By this time in the day I was in need of a nap but I resisted! We all went back to the hotel and Karen come over to my room and we shared a pot of High Mountain Oolong. There is just something about tea with a friend – especially in a foreign country. Especially the country where the tea came from. Later that night, after giving in to a nap from heaven, Karen and I ventured out for a light dinner and found a cute Japanese place around the corner from the hotel. What was cool about it was that the “restaurant” was open to the sidewalk and you could sit at the sushi bar on the sidewalk or the one table with 2 chairs next to the curb by the cars. We chose the table. The menu arrived in full on mandarin and the waitress spoke not a word of English. It was interesting. Next thing we knew there was this woman at the table translating for us. She didnt work there. She was a customer! It was quite funny. This woman, with her husband and child is standing at our table helping us order. Pure comedy. After our funny meal we headed to CarreFour the local department store thats open until 2am. Its not a department store like in the US. Its got everything from a full grocery store on the bottom level to electronics on the top. She had never been to it before so I dragged her over to it.

One the way back to the hotel, we stumbled upon this little tea shop (Jo Shun Tea Co.) that was still open. It was about 9pm. We went inside, sat down and sampled some oolong teas. The girl who helped was named Janet and she happened to know Thomas Shu! She was in Las Vegas at the World Tea Expo this past spring. Small world. After trying a few oolongs, we spotted some puerh on the shelf. There was a brick that just smelled really good. We asked to sample. Im not a huge fan of puerh, but admittedly, this one was fabulous. It is a 20 year old puerh from Yunnan. I bought it on the spot for $40 USD. Karen did as well. Great find.

The night ended with a little birthday party and cake for Josephine at the DongWu Hotel.
Great day.
Great people.
Great tea.
I’m happy.

Taipei Day 1: Tea and Friends

A Ramble on Tea Reviews (and Wine): Part 1

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It’s just after midnight here in our Nation’s Capital. And I’m wondering why President Obama hasn’t ordered any of our “Drink for Change” blend? Which then led me to Twitter. Random? Of course.

While on Twitter I noticed a significant jump in people following Pearl Fine Teas. Interesting. I hadn’t been paying attention the last few weeks. I clicked to see who was interested in us. Even more interesting. As I browsed the list, checking out fellow TeaPeeps and clicking on their sites or being led to other sites related to tea, I noticed something even more interesting than the last interesting thing…

puter1There are a TON of Tea Review websites out there. When did this happen? So I sat with this thought for a bit… Why are there so many sites that review tea? Why do so many people want to review tea? Why are people building websites and social networks around reviewing tea? Is anyone really interested in someone else’s review of tea? Remember, I was in advertising for many years and my default is extreme curiosity and intense questioning about things like this.

I must admit here on my very own TeaLove Blog, which is mostly about tea and my thoughts on things related to tea (hence totally teacentric) that even I am only mildly interested in another persons review. There I said it. From a business perspective I love the idea of people trying our teas, having an opinion about it (hopefully positive) and then telling others. I like the idea of community. I don’t know how I feel or what I think just yet on the whole “review” thing.  Not knocking the reviewers, just so curious on this new trend. And forming an opinion. (Because I always have an opinion on something.)

I mean… I’ve seen movies where critics have given 2 thumbs down for a movie that I loved. Dare I admit to loving Anchorman? Shallow Hal? Dodgeball? Did I fall asleep watching Ghandi? I really did. But I did love Slumdog Millionaire!

When people ask me what tea they should drink, I always pause for a moment, and then suggest teas that I believe are of high quality and value, and why I think they may like it. However, even though I may like that tea, it doesn’t mean someone else will. High quality aside.

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i love this wine

A few years ago I had a client who was (I think still is) the CEO of a bank. He and his wife were lovers of California wines. I remember talking to him about my growing interest in wines and reading Wine Spectator. He looked at me and said, “Elise, drink what you like and forget the rest. Who cares if something got a low rating. If you like it, drink it.”

I had no reply to that. He was right. Plus he was my client. And a lot taller then me. I feel that way about tea as well. If you like it, drink it.

I LOVE good tea. I also LOVE good wine. But what does good really mean? I’ve had the pleasure of sampling collectible wines: 1989 Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape (Yes! It’s true!); 1996 Latour Corton Charlemagne; 1989 Paul Jaboulet Aine, Hermitage La Chapelle; and a fabulous 1990 Caymus Cabernet Special Selection. I’ve also had Yellow Tail and an unbelievable Pinot Noir from Sonoma-Cutrer for $45 a bottle that left such an impression, I’m ordering a case. Seriously.

lipton4I’ve also sampled many spectacular teas. Some considered so good they are collected and sold for a small fortunes in Asia (ie: puerh). Some I liked and some I didn’t. I’ve also had Lipton. Who hasn’t. There is a time and place for all things, including Lipton Tea. Think iced on a hot summer day.  I refuse to bash Lipton, though I know some people who do. Sir Thomas Johnson Lipton began in 1870 and is currently one of the biggest tea distributors in the world. Its been around for 139 years! People like it.

“Whats her point you may be saying…My point is that, some of us are tea snobs. Some of us are wine snobs. Some of us are both. Is being a snob really such a good thing? I dunno. In the end what matters is what tastes good to YOU. Enjoy the pleasure and the journey of sampling teas and form your own opinion on the leaf (or grape). For good or for bad, its the pleasure of discovering what you like that’s fantastic. And, if you find a tea you absolutely love ENJOY IT. If it happens to be a tea in a bag from a roadside diner paired with the meatloaf special… Who cares. If YOU like it, sip it. (I can feel the tea community twitching as I type this.)

pearl_logo-smallAll that said… I do prefer a whole leaf tea to fannings and anyone out there who would like to review some of our teas (Teaviews & Steepster) and shout out good things to the world about us … you know where to find me.

Ok it’s now 2:23am. I’m done rambling for now and will formulate more thoughts soon on this fantastic growing phenomenon. Part 2 to come…

Happy Sipping! (both tea and wine)

A Ramble on Tea Reviews (and Wine): Part 1

Pu’erh Tea and the Year of the Earth Ox.

yearofoxpotHappy Chinese New Year! Finally, we have closed the door on the Year of the Rat. *whew*

Bye Bye, Rat! Hello, Ox!

As I sit here contemplating the new year (which is today if you go by the Chinese lunar calendar) I am filled with optimism as we welcome the Year of the OX. It must be better than the Rat. Don’t  you think? I hope. Let’s look on the bright side…

Though times may be challenging, each day we get the opportunity to make a new choice! Every single morning, we can create a new reality… amend previous decisions… be more kind… save a bit more money… keep promises… maybe try something new…

Which brings me to my choice of tea tonight as we usher in the Year of the Earth Ox: Golden Tip Pu’erh. What a natural partnership! Rich, smooth, woody, earthy. Lacking the unpleasant mustiness of some pu’erhs.  It’s a perfect introduction into the mystical world of pu’erh. A few cups a day is said to have the highest in health benefits. We’ll let you know when we start glowing. If you haven’t tried this magical tea from China, we recommend you dive right in.

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Golden Tip Pu'erh

Ok, now back to Chinese Astrology.  The Chinese Zodiac is said to follow the stations of Jupiter’s orbit around the sun, which is just shy of 12 years. The animals mark years in a 12-year cycle that begins with rat, followed by ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and boar. According GoToAstrology.com:

The coming 2009 year of the earth Ox also called 2009 year of the Bull or Buffalo is around the corner. It looks like we’ve got honest, candid and open natured year ahead. As you might guess, coming 2009 year of the earth Ox is dependable, calm and modest. Sun sign horoscope for the 2009 year of the Ox like his animal sing is unshakably patient, full of hard work and tireless though need financial support to fulfill your ideas and make your desires.

2009 year is the year of the earth Ox and 26 year in sixty-year cycle. As the Chinese astrology tells us, the Ox sign is the sign of prosperity found through fortitude and hard work. Such year as 2009 year of the earth Ox has a straight and unprejudiced nature though sometimes reveals hidden secrets without due thought, inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings and offend others. It should turn out to be the prosperous year for those hard thinkers and active planners who believe in and relay on a teamwork, running own business or work independently.”

OK! Well that sounds like good news to me!

Check out your Chinese Horoscope for the upcoming year. Don’t know your Chinese Sign? Click here.

Happy New Year! Happy Sipping!

Pu’erh Tea and the Year of the Earth Ox.